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Vol. 76/No. 38      October 22, 2012

US-led sanctions drive fall of rial,
Iranian workers press wage raise
(front page)
Under pressure of economic sanctions imposed by Washington and its allies aimed at forcing the Iranian government to abandon its program of nuclear research, Iran’s currency, the rial, plunged 40 percent against the dollar the last week of September.

The imperialists’ squeeze is having some of its intended effects: deepening hardship for working people in order to destabilize the regime and widening fissures within Iran’s ruling class.

The currency plunge led to a strike by currency traders and bazaar merchants, and clashes between riot police and demonstrators in Tehran Oct. 3.

More significant than the traders’ and bazaar protests is a petition workers delivered Sept. 22 to the Minister of Welfare, Labor and Social Affairs with 10,000 signatures from factories around the country, protesting the high cost of living and demanding increased wages.

An earlier petition was delivered June 16, also with 10,000 signatures. Organizers say that so far they have had no response from the minister and that 10,000 more signatures are on the way.

“Since last year … and especially in the past few months, the living expenses have risen several fold. … This staggering increase in prices … has taken place while the median salary of us workers has only risen by 13 percent,” the petition says.

Among the signers are workers in mines, steel mills, construction, engine manufacturing, rail and pharmaceuticals.

Jafar Azimzadeh, one of the petition organizers, told the Associated Press Oct. 1 that unless the government finds ways to prop up wages and rein in prices “workers would not stay at the level of writing petitions. They would go toward street gatherings and other actions.”

Prices for food, rent and transportation have doubled since last year. Meat and rice, staples in Iran, have risen 48 and 34 percent respectively.

Since 2006 the UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran. The U.S. and European Union have leveled their own additional punitive measures. At the end of 2011 the Barack Obama administration adopted sanctions targeting foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran’s national bank, aimed at hampering Tehran’s oil sales. A month later the EU imposed an oil embargo and froze the bank’s foreign assets.

Iran relies on crude oil exports for 80 percent of its foreign income. Oil production has fallen by more than half in a year. The country’s oil revenues have declined by $40 billion since the beginning of 2012. At the end of 2011 the International Monetary Fund estimated Iran’s currency reserve to be $106 billion. Today it’s somewhere between $50 and $70 billion. And some of it is frozen in accounts outside the country.

In early October Parliament Speaker Ari Larijani said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government is responsible for 80 percent of the economic problems Iran faces.

In a speech at the UN Sept. 27 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that military action would not be necessary before mid-2013—a marked step back from his previous call for immediate action as sanctions against Iran take their toll.  
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